I recently made a batch of homebrew that turned out really bad. It has been sitting around for a while. What can I do with it besides throwing it out? – Dennis – Las Vegas, NV
Bob: Dennis, every, and I mean every, homebrewer has had a similar experience, even if they haven’t admitted it. It can be a big letdown and can be quite discouraging as well. The best thing you can do at this point is to just let it go. Dump the beer and move on. The longer you keep it around, the longer you’ll be unhappy about it. Make a new batch. Try a different style. Think about what might have happened and learn from your experience. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice from your fellow homebrewers. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged and give up brewing. Hopefully you’ll come up with a brew someday that will exceed your wildest expectations. Hopefully soon. Send me a bottle when you do.
How long can Anchor Christmas Ale be cellared and still be decent? Do you recommend cellaring for a few years? Always enjoy this every year, thanks. - Steve – Dubuque, Iowa
Bob : Steve, I believe that our Christmas Ale — which is a wonderful and unique product with its fragrant hop aroma and palate, its blend of holiday spices, and its full malty character — is best enjoyed fresh. That being said, we have had some of our Xmas ale that has been cellared for over ten years that held up well. I’ve been asked many times if it improves with age, but saying so would imply that it is not at its best fresh. Instead, I prefer to say that it “lays down well.” In my experience, the changes that occur in cellaring are most pronounced within the first three to five years. These changes include mellowing of the spices and a softening of the hops.
The conditions of cellaring make a big difference. The bottles must be kept cool, under 50 degrees if possible. They shouldn’t be shaken up or roughly moved around. Probably the most important thing is not to allow the beer to undergo big temperature fluctuations. A few degrees here and there is OK, but keeping it in the garage where it gets up to 90 in the summer and down to 20 in the winter will do damage. A good rule is if you have it in a cool cellar or refrigerator (the best cellar there is). Don’t take it out until you want to drink it.
What temperature is Anchor Steam best served at? - Jim
Bob: Jim, whatever temperature you find most pleasing is the right temperature for you. There are several schools of thought on the subject, but you should choose for yourself. Taste is subjective. No two persons experience taste exactly the same. There are those who would dictate that certain beers need to be consumed at higher temperatures, around 50 degrees, because there are certain flavor and/or aromatic components that do not become fully developed until the beer has warmed up. Partially true, especially if the beer is lowly-hopped and thin of body. Also partially true if the beer is overly complex and should be enjoyed at several stages of warming, i.e. served cold and allowed to warm up as you drink it.
Others will say that beer should never be allowed to warm up past 45 degrees because it is no longer crisp and refreshing after that. Again, partially true. Especially if you are drinking standard American pilsner style beer in warm weather. I personally believe that one characteristic of a good beer is that it will be enjoyable through a wide range of temperatures. Having said that, I prefer my Anchor Steam Beer to be served at 40 degrees and consumed by the time it reaches 45 in the glass, enjoying it at every step of the way.
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